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Budapest Airport: Stepping onto the world stage

Budapest Airport

Last November saw the completion of Budapest Airport’s Cargo City, a new €50 million dedicated air freight facility that boosts annual capacity to 250,000 tonnes. Group editor Colette Doyle finds out more

Budapest Airport (BUD)’s chief property and cargo officer René Droese is rightly proud of the latest development at the Hungary-based hub. “Cargo City really is a state-of-the-art facility,” he affirms. “Previously, while we were able to handle the volume of cargo, our facilities were not always in line with the latest technology and they were spread out across 10 different buildings. This was an issue for the airlines since it made the process somewhat inefficient as well as expensive.”

The new, 32,800m² facility changes all that, as it includes a 21,600m² handling building plus an 11,200m² forwarder building, with a
32,000m² cargo apron that is capable of servicing two Boeing 747 freighters simultaneously.

Celebi Aviation Holding and Menzies Aviation are two of the international ground and cargo-handling companies moving into the new terminal. “We are very happy to have attracted this level of clientele,” says Droese, who explains that the airport approached potential clients in advance in order to “better understand their requirements,” factoring in height and size parameters for instance, as well as distance, before drawing up a brief for the architect.

As part of phase two of the project, the forwarder building will be inaugurated during Q1 this year for use by market-leading freight forwarders such as Kuehne + Nagel, Cargo-partner, DB Schenker, EKOL, Kombi Express, Ghibli/ CECZ and Yusen Logistics. Droese points out that BUD will use 2021 to gather feedback from customers to move forward with phase two of the development programme: “We may cut and paste what we have already, or it might be something entirely different, it all depends on the comments that we get.”

Over the past 15 months, Budapest Airport has inaugurated both belly and freighter routes to China, and its new routes opening this year will continue to strengthen ties with the country. Droese points to the broad spread of carriers that the airport already deals with; freighters include Cargolux, Qatar Airways Cargo, Turkish Cargo and AirBridgeCargo, while belly cargo operators such as Emirates, American Airlines, Air Canada or LOT Polish Airlines also provide cargo connection services and the roll call of integrators features DHL Express, UPS, TNT and Fedex.

Budapest Airport

In terms of the type of goods being shipped, automotive, pharmaceutical and electronics lead the way: Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Novartis, Roche and Samsung all have a strong presence in the country. The government is keen to play its part, as Droese points out: “The wage level in Hungary is competitive and corporate tax is levied at a flat rate of nine per cent, so it compares favourably with other hubs”.

Overall, there are 1.5 million tonnes of air cargo a year within the
BUD catchment zone and several large shippers within an eight-hour drive of the airport, and there is certainly room for future growth, as BUD only utilised around 10 per cent of this capacity in 2019.

Droese also points to BUD’s fortuitous geographical location in the middle of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as its extensive motorway network that means no fewer than 20 countries (both EU and non) are within trucking distance.

At the airport itself, the 24/7 operation has the capacity to handle all kinds of aircraft, including the widebody category D, E and F; it also boasts two independent runways and permanently available apron capacities. In addition, a “flexible and co-operative” airport operation team and air control authority offer bonded warehouses and electronic customs clearance, with an e-freight system and e-reporting for added ease.

In anticipation of air cargo growth at the airport, Celebi Ground Handling Hungary, which currently handles 90,000 tonnes of cargo a year at BUD, has invested in a two-phase infrastructure development plan. The first phase includes a 22,000m² area with 12,000m² of warehouse space and 1,600m² office and social space, as well as 8,000m² devoted to manoeuvring and equipment parking areas.

For phase two, the handler plans to install a brand-new Elevating Transfer Vehicle (ETV) to increase capacity. Celebi Aviation Holding’s president of ground handling and cargo for EMEA, Atilla Korkmazoglu was quoted at the time as saying that the company is “proud to be part of the highly committed and professional environment of Budapest Airport.”

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